Federal judge: Wisconsin woman’s FMLA lawsuit can proceed

A Wisconsin woman who worked as an administrative assistant played by the rules of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). She notified her employer that after her one-year anniversary at the firm that would make her FMLA eligible, she would have surgery to repair an old Achilles injury. Unfortunately, her employer tried to skirt the rules by informing her that she would instead be placed on unpaid medical leave. 

The employee tried to make the best of the situation. She spoke to the company’s HR coordinator who assured her that if she moved the surgery up to a date before she became FMLA eligible, she’d be granted leave regardless and her job would be held for her. Despite the assurances, when push came to shove, the woman was denied leave and someone else was hired to take her position.

The woman then sued her former employer, citing FMLA interference. The company asked the Eastern District of Wisconsin court to dismiss her claim, arguing that because she had worked for the company less than a year, she was not eligible for FMLA protections. The federal judge rejected the request, writing that it’d be “fundamentally unfair to allow an employer to force an employee to begin a non-emergency medical leave less than two weeks before she would become eligible for leave,” assure her that she could return to her job and then terminate her employment.

He also wrote that the FMLA prohibits interference, which can include a period before a person becomes eligible for the law’s protections because the Act requires 30 days of notice of leave in certain circumstances (including scheduled surgeries).

If you have been denied FMLA leave though you are eligible, or if your employer has otherwise tried to flout the law, contact an attorney experienced in employment law litigation.


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